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29 hours without sleep.

At the start of the day the icebreaker was a microphone passed around the room of 200 people, each to introduce themselves and to name three ‘tags’ that applied to them*.

There are a lot of people here who own startups, I’m not sure if that is just the audience that these sorts of events draw, or if it has become incredibly easy to begin a startup. A couple of people used the chance to mention that they were looking for jobs and the one venture capitalist (a nice bloke) almost whispered his job. People have come from all over the world, Denmark, Italy, Germany and even someone from New Zealand. It seems that in the UK Brighton is the place to watch for startups although it would be interesting to have actual data rather than impressions on that score.

The first session that I took part in was Ian Forrester giving us an overview on the new Pipeline type services. He liked touchstonelive (which sadly is Windows only and is an invite only beta) and touched on the new Yahoo Pipes. He then put forward a couple of ideas as to where pipelines could be heading. An example which he gave was using multiple APIs (Preloadr and Moo) on Flickr. Another example was which is a video sharing site, it gives options to pass the file and metadata onto other applications and sites like – with more pipeline implementation you could do all this without logging into, instead using as a pipeline.

What Ian is asking for is more controllable pipelines that cold automate a lot of the web stuff that we do each day – consider it a filter on steroids.

*For those that are interested my tags were ‘Neophile’, ‘Creative Commons’, and ‘101 interesting things to do to an unconscious drunk’ (which got a laugh).

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Hours without sleep – 25

It’s 12am, (actually a lie, I’m typing this at 9am but will be unable to post this until 12am when the WiFi went live – more on that later methinks). People are drifting in and reforming friendships, there is a sort of hushed conversation. Personal Caffeine intake is somewhere around 2.5L of Coke although there are four cans of Red Bull nestling in the bottom of my bag. For reasons that are not readily apparent I appear to be unable to type more than a sentence without some sort of spelling or grammatical error. Truly, sleep deprivation is a wonderfully cheap drug.

Once more I wonder what I’m doing here – I’m not a coder, I don’t work in a wonderfully technical business (I’ve compared ‘trauma’ to plumbing), yet I find myself attracted to this sort of thing. Perhaps in an alternate universe there is a version of me who didn’t train to be a teacher but instead stuck with his childhood dream of being a ‘system analyst’ (which I realise now dates my childhood).

I’m thinking about offering blood pressure checks for people – it’s worked before as a way of introducing myself to people, and as a party piece goes, it’s a pretty useful one.

I wonder how many people here will think that I’m stoned out of my skull?

Best line so far would be Ian’s introductory speech that included the soon to be classic, “We have a room with carpeting – for sleeping on”. Perhaps closely followed by, “If you come to a door that you can’t open…it’s out of bounds”.

So as the WiFi has gone live I’m posting this as people are filling ‘the grid’ with their presentations – some of which sound *very* intriguing…

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Lets see if I’ve set Ecto up correctly with tags and everything.

I’m heading off to BarCampLondon2 this weekend, I was supposed to be working nightshifts (weekend nights, my favourite shifts) but managed to get some annual leave granted. Unfortunately the Friday wasn’t granted so here is my schedule…

Friday – Wake up as late as possible, into work for 19:00 start. Pick up drunk and assaults all night. Continue running around until…
Saturday – …Work finishes at 7:00, have cup of tea at work and change clothes. Head into London for BarCamp. Try not to die from lack of sleep, drink loads of Red Bull. Sleep overnight on the floor.
Sunday – Having hopefully not killed anyone during sleep deprivation hallucinations continue BarCamp until 17:00. go home and crash.

I’m hoping to blog what happens during the day here, a chance to play at being an ’embedded journalist’ with no editor and probably, after no sleep, no grasp of spelling or grammar.

Laura describes it as ‘Geeks Anonymous’ and I’m inclined to agree – I’m also guessing that I’ll be the only person there who won’t be working in a Web 2.0 type company. To counter my lack of Web 2.0 coding skills I’ve volunteered my first aid skills instead.

If I’m not unconscious.

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Not much blogging of late partly because I am spending time trying to write a presentation on ‘Citizen Journalism’ without knowing what my co-presenters are doing on the subject. Also I don’t know what the target audience is and coming from a teaching background I know that knowing your audience is really important.

So I prevaricate.

First up – a trailer for the new series of ‘Life on Mars’. If you aren’t British you may not understand.

…and then another video where I suspect a ‘major incident’ will be called by the receiving hospital.

[tags]Lifeonmars, brokenbones, knowyouraudience[/tags]

Why The iPhone Isn’t A Revolution

Like many Mac converts I watched the keynote speech from the Macworld Expo last night. Unlike many Mac fans I left feeling a bit disappointed. Although Ian shares many of the same misgivings I have.

The obvious star of the show was the brand new iPhone and while I was disappointed that there was no new news on computer hardware or the upcoming OS X upgrade, I was still very interested to see how Apple would ‘reinvent the phone’.

Two good things immediately leapt out at me, the design of the thing and the User Interface. The design looks very sexy, although with a black touchscreen I wonder how many seconds it will take to get covered in fingerprints and earsweat. The User Interface does indeed look lovely and the multitouch screen seems intuitive to use. All the applications tie nicely together and it is this, rather than anything else that separates it from Smartphones.

The rest I’m afraid was a bit disappointing. While the iPhone’s applications appear to work well and the Safari browser looks particularly nice, there doesn’t seem to be enough applications. Everything the iPhone can do my current smartphone can do.

  • Web browsing and Email? Check!
  • Google Maps? Check!
  • Music player? Check!
  • Videoplayer? Check!
  • Bluetooth and Wifi? Check!
  • Use a finger to poke soft-buttons? Check!
  • Switch between Landscape and portrait? Check! (With a cool transformers type move).
  • Phone with SMS? Check!
  • Ignore 3G? Errrmmm…actually my phone supports 3G.

To be fair to the iPhone, it does look a lot easier to use than my current smartphone and some of the applications look nicer, but it is hardly a ‘revolution’.

It is not just the lack of ‘revolution’ that bothers me, it is some of the things that were left unsaid that are worrying.

The Smartphone platform has hundreds of applications, it’s easy to get your hands on a development platform for Windows Mobile. This has lead to a spree of development, including the traditional ‘one man in his bedroom’ development houses. Jobs didn’t mention how applications would be developed for the iPhone. I would have been happier with an announcement that Apple would be updating Xcode to allow for mobile programming, currently I have the fear that development for the new platform will be closed off. I’m hoping that an announcement that you can use Xcode and that development will be open will happen closer to the iPhone’s launch.

My mobile at the moment has several offline maps, an offline copy of wikipedia, an ebook application, an IM client, a couple of games, Pocket versions of MS Word and Excel, Java, Skype, Tom Tom navigator, an IRC client , a photo editing app and something that will play pretty much every video format out there. These extra applications have expanded my phone in a frankly ridiculous manner.

Without easy 3rd party coding, the iPhone simply won’t have the codebase for it becoming the ‘one-stop-shop’ of mobile communications. Instead people will have to be drip-fed applications from Apple and a few ‘licensed’ developers.

And was it just me who found his “we will defend our patents” a bit scary? I guess that means that if you want a multi-touch screen, Apple will be the only place to get it.

The keyboard on the screen? Nice, but there isn’t any tactile feedback and, while it may just be a personal taste, I like feeling my thumbs sliding over a real keyboard. Battery life seems pretty good, I wonder how long it lasts on Standby.

The other big killer for me is that lack of an SD slot. With SD card prices being very affordable these days it becomes easy to expand your phone’s storage, it is also an incredibly easy way of transferring photos from your digital camera into a photo editing app.

My Smartphone syncs up to my Mac using the excellent MissingSync 3rd party software and it moves across my contacts, calendars and more exactly like the new iPhone.

So – not a revolution, but the UI does look very droolworthy.

Oh, and AppleTV? I do that at the moment with my Macbook and DVI to Composite connector, and I’m not tied to iTunes DRM either.
[tags]iPhone, Apple, stevejobs, Keynote, smartphone[/tags]

HDTV (And The Weirdness Of Not Allowing Comments)

Kevin Marks, a very nice chap who I had the honour of chatting to a couple of days ago (or was it longer), has posted on his blog some thoughts on HDTV.

I spent a chunk of time looking at HDTVs in Best Buy and the Sony shop yesterday, and wasn’t impressed. Overall, what I saw on the displays looked full of compression artefacts, with poor colour.

I wanted to comment on this, but his blog doesn’t have comments – fair enough I suppose if you want to avoid comment spam, but I personally think that the immediacy of a response to a post is one of the strengths of blogging. Instead, to ‘comment’, you post something on your own blog and link to the originating post. It then shows up on Technorati and Kevin can read it.

Which doesn’t help if you don’t have a blog.
At least I originally thought it might be about stopping comment spam. If I were being cynical it may just be a cunning ploy to get people to link to his blog thereby increasing his google-juice…

But no matter, we have all moved past that desire to rise in the various rankings haven’t we?

So, on to the comment that I wanted to make. The reason why HDTVs look so cruddy in shop displays is that the store often has one input which is amplified and split between huge numbers of televisions. This makes the pictures look incredibly awful, often worse than the traditional television which, due to it’s low resolution, is a little more forgiving.

Until shops start arranging better displays of their goods, your average person off the street isn’t going to be sold on the benefits of HDTV.

To be honest, I’m not sold on the idea of HD TV, or the HD DVD replacements, but then I have crappy eyesight and don’t watch much broadcast TV at all.

(…And as I was about to post this Kevin used Twitter to point me to something he wrote in the past – it seems that I do have a nasty cynical mind… And I agree with Jeff and Ben’s comments in that post, that comments are a good thing and are more natural than using Technorati to backtrack conversations. And have a happy new year in a few hours Kevin.)

[tags]HDTV,Comments,New Year[/tags]

New Year

It is as many people around the world look to the turning of the year I find myself looking at how I deal with time.

The problem is this, I have a terrible sense of time. I think that this is in part due to working shift work. The rapid setting and resetting of my body clock, a person’s own internal timekeeper, often leads me to lose track of where in the day I am. It doesn’t help with the extended holiday at this time of year and the short daylight hours. No longer can I get a base idea of where I am in time by what is showing on the television as the schedules are full of ‘specials’.

It’s not just time either. I’m a terrible person for navigation. Give me a map and a compass and I can get myself to any destination, but this is just knowing how to use the tools. It has taken me a long time to get to know some form of ‘local knowledge’ and then only the basest kind. Compared to many of the people at work I would still get horrendously lost were it not for our satellite navigation system.

Modern physics tells us that space-time is one thing. It appears that it is one thing that I am hopelessly lost in.

So, as I sit here typing this, the new year less than six hours away, I don’t feel that it is a ‘new start’, I don’t think of ‘new year resolutions’, I don’t celebrate it as, for me, it is just another day.

It just means I have to remember to fill in 2007 as the year on all my paperwork.

Which will only lead to more confusion for me.


Honda have been coming up with some really nice adverts of late, from the ‘Hate something, Change something‘ song (which still brings a smile to my face), to the ‘Impossible dream‘. The clever thing is that they have made them easy to download, something that has fueled the ‘viral nature’ of these adverts, something that the Bravia team have also used to their advantage.

So I was very glad to see the new Honda advert. There is something about the way that Asimo walks that makes me want to giggle. It moves with poetry, and each time I see it I dream of what it might lead to – better artificial legs, the complete design of the wheelchair, and this is without going into the roles that humanoid robots might have in the future.

Until then, enjoy the video courtesy of the marketing smarts at Honda.

[quicktime width=”320″ height=”176″][/quicktime]

[tags]Robots, advert,honda[/tags]

Tilly and the wall

There is something to be said about surfing the music channels late at night, for it has led me to discover Tilly and the wall. Specifically their track ‘Rainbows in the dark’. Here is the video. (With a similar style to the Feeder video for ‘Just a day‘).

The first thing that I thought was that they sounded a little like ‘The Polyphonic Spree‘, so I jumped on iTunes and listened to some of their other tracks. I have to say I like them and will be buying their albums after Christmas. I would describe them better but I have a very limited musical vocabulary, I’m one of those annoying ‘I know what I like, but I can’t tell you why’ people. I wonder if my brother already has their albums as it’s the sort of music he likes.